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The Morphology of Price Dispersion

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  • Greg Kaplan

    (Department of Economics, Princeton University)

  • Guido Menzio

    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

This paper is a study of the shape and structure of the distribution of prices at which an identical good is sold in a given market and time period. We find that the typical price distribution is symmetric and leptokurtic, with a standard deviation between 19% and 36%. Only 10% of the variance of prices is due to variation in the expensiveness of the stores at which a good is sold, while the remaining 90% is due, in approximately equal parts, to differences in the average price of a good across equally expensive stores and to differences in the price of a good across transactions at the same store. We show that the distribution of prices that households pay for the same bundle of goods is approximately Normal, with a standard deviation between 9% and 14%. Half of this dispersion is due to differences in the expensiveness of the stores where households shop, while the other half is mostly due to differences in households’ choices of which goods to purchase at which stores. We find that households with fewer employed members pay lower prices, and do so by visiting a larger number of stores, rather than by shopping more frequently.

Suggested Citation

  • Greg Kaplan & Guido Menzio, 2014. "The Morphology of Price Dispersion," PIER Working Paper Archive 14-002, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:14-002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Böheim, René & Hackl, Franz & Hölzl-Leitner, Michael, 2021. "The impact of price adjustment costs on price dispersion in e-commerce," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    2. Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Viacheslav Sheremirov & Oleksandr Talavera, 2018. "Price Setting in Online Markets: Does IT Click?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 16(6), pages 1764-1811.
    3. Luigi Paciello & Andrea Pozzi & Nicholas Trachter, 2019. "Price Dynamics With Customer Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 60(1), pages 413-446, February.
    4. Benjamin Eden, 2018. "Price Dispersion And Demand Uncertainty: Evidence From U.S. Scanner Data," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 59(3), pages 1035-1075, August.
    5. Föllmi, Reto & Minsch, Rudolf & Schnell, Fabian, 2016. "What Determines Price Changes and the Distribution of Prices? Evidence from the Swiss CPI," Economics Working Paper Series 1610, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    6. Guido Menzio & Nicholas Trachter, 2014. "Large and Small Sellers: A Theory of Equilibrium Price Dispersion with Sequential Search," Working Paper 14-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    7. Leo Kaas & Bihemo Kimasa, 2021. "Firm Dynamics With Frictional Product And Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 62(3), pages 1281-1317, August.
    8. Kaldasch, Joachim, 2015. "The Product Life Cycle of Durable Goods," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 1-17.
    9. David Argente & Munseob Lee, 2021. "Cost of Living Inequality During the Great Recession," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 913-952.
    10. Aviv Nevo & Arlene Wong, 2019. "The Elasticity Of Substitution Between Time And Market Goods: Evidence From The Great Recession," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 60(1), pages 25-51, February.
    11. Kaldasch, Joachim, 2015. "Dynamic Model of the Price Dispersion of Homogeneous Goods," MPRA Paper 64723, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Ji Yan & Kun Tian & Huw D. Dixon & Saeed Heravi & Peter Morgan, 2014. "Shop Around and You Pay More," CESifo Working Paper Series 4940, CESifo.
    13. Oleksiy Kryvtsov & Nicolas Vincent, 2014. "On the Importance of Sales for Aggregate Price Flexibility," Staff Working Papers 14-45, Bank of Canada.
    14. Menzio, Guido & Trachter, Nicholas, 2015. "Equilibrium price dispersion with sequential search," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 160(C), pages 188-215.
    15. Zack Cooper & Stuart V Craig & Martin Gaynor & John Van Reenen, 2019. "The Price Ain’t Right? Hospital Prices and Health Spending on the Privately Insured," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 134(1), pages 51-107.
    16. Gaetano Gaballo, 2018. "Price Dispersion, Private Uncertainty, and Endogenous Nominal Rigidities," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(2), pages 1070-1110.
    17. Benjamin Eden & Maya Eden & Jonah Yuen, 2019. "Temporary sales in response to aggregate shocks," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 19-00003, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    18. Rachel Griffith & Martin O'Connell & Kate Smith, 2016. "Shopping Around: How Households Adjusted Food Spending Over the Great Recession," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(330), pages 247-280, April.
    19. Benjamin Eden & Maya Eden & Jonah Yuen, 2016. "Inside The Price Dispersion Box: Evidence From Us Scanner Data," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 16-00017, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    20. Coen, Jamie & Kashyap, Anil & Rostom, May, 2021. "Price discrimination and mortgage choice," Bank of England working papers 926, Bank of England.
    21. Argente, David & Lee, Munseob & Moreira, Sara, 2018. "Innovation and product reallocation in the great recession," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 1-20.
    22. Sheremirov, Viacheslav, 2020. "Price dispersion and inflation: New facts and theoretical implications," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 59-70.
    23. Martin Beraja & Erik Hurst & Juan Ospina, 2019. "The Aggregate Implications of Regional Business Cycles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 87(6), pages 1789-1833, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Price dispersion; product market search; amenities; employment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

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